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Steph & Neil - Stone Barn, Cotswolds

Steph & Neil’s wedding was my second visit to the Stone Barn in as many years. It’s a little bit out of my usual stomping ground, but it’s a fantastic venue and ever since shooting Jojo & Tom’s wedding in 2012 I’ve been keen to go back.

I’ve been very much looking forward to blogging this wedding as it is one that will live long in the memory. Steph & Neil are both really relaxed and their day very much reflected that. They allowed plenty of time to enjoy themselves, their guests and the astonishing weather - at the time it was the hottest day of the year I believe. The day began at Cats Abbey which is literally a stone’s throw away on the other side of the A40. The morning progressed in a wonderfully casual fashion, upstairs on the mezzanine Steph and the bridesmaids getting hair and makeup done while below the boys watched the deciding Lions test match (and I endeavoured to avoid the scoreline!). Above all there was a palpable sense of calm and contentedness - fine weather, great location, fantastic party on the horizon, what could be better!?

The wedding itself was lovely and as Steph & Neil had asked for only limited coverage of the ceremony it was really nice to be able to soak it all up a bit more than normal. Stone Barn is an incredible structure and although it conducts civil ceremonies there’s something unmistakably Church-like about it when a wedding ceremony is occurring. Following the ceremony we emerged into glorious sunshine for some of the best confetti I’ve experienced in ages. A huge long tunnel of family and friends, wonderful light and guests eager to throw!

Neil & Steph’s first dance needs particular mention. It became clear during the toasts that Neil has something of a penchant, and ability when it comes to the matter of fancy dress. A long line of Neil’s suitably impressive former costumes was revealed to us during the slideshow section of Best Man Mark’s speech/character assassination. Some were funny, some apt (note Neil’s more-than-passing resemblance to Boris Becker) but all were fantastically well done. So, when Neil tipped me the wink to let me know that the first dance might include some ‘costume changes’ I was expecting big things. Oh how it delivered.

With no particular song to call their own, Steph & Neil had explained to me that they’d decided to go with the zeitgeist and chosen Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams. As the first dance approached Neil disappeared and Steph was sent onto the dancefloor solo. As the awesome Ambassador Band vamped the intro and the guests looked on in heightened anticipation the mood built to fever pitch…. and then… the circle of guests parted and Neil emerged. Clad in a fetching velour jacket the man of the moment calmly donned a Daft Punk style helmet that he’d not only acquired but also customised (with red LEDs) to read ‘STEPH’ before confidently boogieng out to meet his beautiful Bride. The crowd went NUTS.

This recollection may sound like melodrama or mere enthusiasm but seriously, I can’t emphasise enough how awesome this scene was. I’ve never seen a wedding congregation go as bonkers for a first dance or the Bride & Groom enjoy it so much. The energy was intense and had me grinning like a maniac; I’ll remember it forever!

Steph & Neil were fun fun fun and simply great people to work for. Big hearts, yet fiercely intelligent and uniquely gifted when it comes to throwing a massive party! My thanks to them for being truly awesome.

As always, below are a selection of my favourites from the day. I’ll be back to the Stone Barn in 2014 and I’m looking forward to it already.

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Kelly & Danny - Monkey Island

The South-East is simply chock full of outstanding wedding venues. The weekend before last I shot at a new one for me, Monkey Island in Bray-on-Thames. Not only is it beautiful but it reminded me of the awesome adventures of Guybrush Threepwood and his nemesis the ghost pirate Le Chuck. For those to whom that means nothing, do your geeky research!

Kelly & Danny are fantastic people and I’d been really excited to shoot their wedding since our first meeting last year. They wanted a small, intimate ceremony followed up by a fantastic party and, from a photography standpoint, relaxed was the name of the game. Photography that observes the day rather than controls it. Definitely my sort of clients!

When I visited Monkey Island a couple of weeks prior to recce the location, our main concern was whether the Thames would continue to rise and sweep the whole place away. The April and May rains had been relentless and hopes for an outside ceremony were wilting. Oh how contrary the English weather can be! On the day itself the sun finally put his hat on and baked us all. From morning till night hardly a cloud was seen and blue skies prevailed. Kelly looked truly stunning, Danny exceptionally dapper and they were both ably attended by a tremendous wedding party. Seriously, what superbly lovely people. The speeches were particularly memorable. Any long-term readers will know how I feel about great speeches, but honestly, the intimacy of the occasion and the sincerity of the words made them especially powerful. In particular I’ll remember the usher, George - all of about 12 or 13 - making a speech with the poise and self-assurance of a professional orator. Ladies and gents, it was something very special!

Photographing smaller weddings (in terms of guests) is always an interesting challenge as it makes it that much harder to hide in the crowd. With less people moving around the opportunities for carefully crafting composition are sometimes richer, but the emphasis has to be on patience and observation. Without controlling people directly, often you have to wait for the elements to fall into place. This is one of my favourite aspects of wedding photography and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable day’s coverage. As always, here are a selection of my favourites, shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

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Comments

Photobooth - Gurntastic!

I’ve been offering a Photobooth as part of my wedding packages for a couple of years now and it invariably proves incredibly popular. Guests love it and end up having a really fun time. The idea is simple. A camera on a tripod, a studio flash setup and a box of props to ensure maximum hilarity. To take the picture, guests press a footswitch on the floor so there need be no interference or unwanted ‘direction’ from me!

Most people go for an eclectic mixture of wigs, toy revolvers and shades, while others prepare to plump for something less outlandish and more traditional. Every once in a while though, someone drops some genuine comedy gold. For me, the image below falls firmly into that category. The last image of the night from Richard & Laura’s wedding at Hampton Court House on Monday, this phenomenal gurn is simply top drawer!

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